coal

Duncan Harris, Flickr Creative Commons

Nebraska-based Kiewit Corporation announced today that 45 positions will be cut from its Gillette mine. In 2015, around 218 workers were employed at Buckskin Mine, Kiewit's only in the state.  

 

In a statement, company spokesperson Tom Janssen wrote:   

 

"Unfortunately, the coal market remains extremely challenging. Low natural gas prices, low overall power demand and high coal stockpiles at utility power plants has significantly reduced our customers’ 2016 coal needs."

 

Coal production during in the first quarter of 2016 was the lowest its been since 1981. According to the US Energy Information Administration, coal production in the Power River Basin dropped nearly 30% from the fourth quarter of 2015. That is a bigger drop than in any other region.

Demand for coal is down because of low natural gas prices, competition from renewables, and environmental regulations. An unusually warm winter also reduced demand, so companies cut production.

Stephanie Joyce

Earlier this year, on a conference call with investors, the head of one of the nation's largest coal companies shocked those tuned in with a frank admission.  Colin Marshall is CEO of Cloud Peak Energy:

"As we look forward, it is clear that the dynamics of the coal industry have permanently changed," he said. “Where coal used to provide baseload generation, it is now much more variable depending on power demand, renewable output, and the price of natural gas."

The largest consumer of Wyoming coal is projecting a shift to solar in the next 15 years.

Texas consumed 58 million tons of Wyoming coal in 2014, more than any other state, but many of that state’s coal fired power plants are headed for retirement, and Texas’ grid operator anticipates those will be replaced with solar power.

Stephanie Joyce

A bankruptcy judge has given Alpha Natural Resources approval to move its restructuring plan to a vote, over the objections of the federal government.

The government had argued Alpha didn’t provide enough detail about various parts of the plan, including how the company plans to pay for mine reclamation, for creditors to fully evaluate it, but the bankruptcy judge disagreed.

Donald Trump laid out his thoughts on U.S. energy policy during a speech today at an oil industry conference in Bismarck, North Dakota.  

Trump spent much of his time bashing what he referred to as Hillary Clinton's "extremist agenda."

 

As for his agenda, Trump wants to bring back jobs in coal, oil, and gas by rolling back what he called an onslaught of federal regulations and also by producing more fossil fuels.

 

Stephanie Joyce

The federal government has filed an objection to Alpha Natural Resources’ plan for emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

  

Environmentalists, lawmakers, coal miners, and advocates of all types gathered to have their say at a public meeting this week, in Casper, Wyo, hosted by the Department of the Interior (DOI). Like most discussions of the future of coal, the debate was passionate and polarized.

“This is a politically motivated sham, pandering to the political allies of the secretary and the administration,” Richard Reavey, an executive at a coal company called Cloud Peak Energy, said in his public remarks.

With three of the four largest American coal companies in bankruptcy, a federal regulator gave a blunt assessment today of potential problems with future coal mine clean up. The Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement (OSMRE) is asking for public comment on how to make sure that coal mine reclamation is paid for.  

 

The Bureau of Land Management

Coal miners, state lawmakers, environmentalists and land advocates all came together in Casper today to weigh in on coal. 

Robert van Waarden / survivalmediaagency.com

The debate about whether or not humans are warming the planet is essentially over – ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that we are. But the debate over tactics, about how to reduce our carbon emissions, is just starting to heat up.

Federal officials are objecting to a coal company's plan to restructure and emerge from bankruptcy, because, they say, it looks a lot more like a plan to liquidate. 

On Monday, a bankruptcy court judge has approved Alpha Natural Resource's request to cancel labor agreements and reduce retiree benefits for unionized workers. 

In court documents, Alpha writes that it is fighting to survive as the coal industry collapses. Cutting these obligations, the company argues, is necessary if it is going to restructure and get out of bankruptcy.  

 

Stephanie Joyce

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. fell by 12% in 2015, compared to 2005 levels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

The EIA explains that this drop is largely the result of changes in our electricity mix. Over the past decade, shifts in sources of electricity, from coal to natural gas for example, have accounted for 68% of the total decrease in energy-related CO2 emissions. 

Duncan Harris, Flickr Creative Commons

The outlook for the North American coal sector is negative. That's according to a bleak industry report released by the credit ratings agency Moody’s, on Friday.  

 

Listen To U.S. Coal Production Fall Off A Cliff

May 6, 2016
Wikimedia Commons

America’s coal industry is hurting: In the past year, thousands of workers have been laid off and a majority of the country’s major coal companies have filed for bankruptcy. Coal production is at 30-year low. Here’s what three decades worth of U.S. coal production looks like:

The drop off in the past year (the orange portion of the graph) is staggering. 

Tim Stubson

 

State Representative Tim Stubson is the third-ranking member of the Wyoming House of Representatives and a member of the legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee. His next move is to try and replace U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis and become Wyoming’s next Congressman. Stubson is also a Casper attorney. He joins Bob Beck to discuss a couple of key issues starting with the declining coal market.

 Learn more about Stubson and his issues.

 

Wyoming Public Media

It’s election season, which means politicians are busy promising lots of things, including when it comes to energy. Hillary Clinton has pledged to give $30 billion to coal communities if elected; Donald Trump has promised energy independence. We wondered, if these policies actually came to pass, what would the world look like? Are they good ideas or bad ideas?

Bankrupt coal company Alpha Natural Resources confirmed that it laid off 37 employees today from its two Powder River Basin coal mines.

These cuts follow much larger layoffs last month at two of the country's largest mines, owned by Arch Coal and Peabody Energy. Together, those companies cut around 465 jobs, or about 15%  of the workforce at Peabody's North Antelope Rochelle Mine and Arch's Black Thunder mine. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Gail Japp’s bright blue eyes are the kind you keep on noticing. I met the 64-year-old at her home outside of Gillette, Wyoming on a gray, windy, day in April. She had just finishing filling out unemployment paperwork.

Japp is one of the 235 coal miners who were laid off by Peabody Energy in March. Arch Coal cut around 230 positions that same week.

I asked her how she felt that day. Her reply: “Devastated, scared. What in the world am I gonna do? I’m single. I’m 64. I have a mortgage. Am I gonna lose my house?”

Liz Cheney

  

Republican Liz Cheney is one of ten announced candidates for the soon to be open U.S. House seat. Cheney is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who also was Wyoming’s congressman. Ms. Cheney has been an attorney, she’s worked in the U.S. State Department where she worked on U.S. policy in the Middle East. She also was a Fox news contributor and co-authored a book with her father. Today she talks to Bob Beck about energy issues, specifically coal. 

ecowatch.com

The largest coal producer in Wyoming declared bankruptcy this week. Companies like Arch Coal, and Alpha Natural Resources have done so as well over the past year, but this filing is particularly symbolic of the industry’s struggles, because of the company’s size. Peabody Energy is the largest privately-owned coal company in the world. Our Inside Energy reporter Leigh Paterson joins Bob Beck. 

statemuseum.nd.gov

  

It’s hard not to notice the influence of the oil and coal industries at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck. Inside the Continental Resources-sponsored Inspiration Gallery you can learn about coal reclamation, touch the Bakken shale, and guess which everyday products are made of petroleum. You can buy oil-themed chocolate at the gift store. Fossil fuel companies are some of the largest donors to this museum, which reopened in 2014 after a $52 million expansion and renovation.

Wikipedia Creative Commons

What does bankruptcy actually mean on the ground?

For now, not very much. In Chapter 11 bankruptcy a company reorganizes but doesn’t shut down. In a statement, Peabody said it plans to continue operating its mines as usual while it restructures.

GOOGLE EARTH

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday. The filing comes on the heels of several other bankruptcy declarations from major coal companies, including Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources.

Just a few days after hundreds of workers were laid off at two Wyoming coal mines, another company offered buyouts to some of its employees. 

Cloud Peak Energy announced last week that it is offering what's called a voluntary separation benefit. The company wouldn't give details on what's actually in the buyout but it is available to hourly employees who are either 65 years old or 55 and have been with the company for ten years.

PHOTO CREDIT NORTHWEST COLLEGE VIA FACEBOOK

 

There’s a lot going on at Wyoming’s 7 community colleges. Tuition hikes, a new funding formula, and a budget crunch. The colleges are also poised to play a big role in the state’s economic recovery. Wyoming lost more than 2 percent of its jobs last year. And just last week, nearly 500 coal workers were laid off in the Powder River Basin.

Jim Rose is the executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank sat down with Dr. Rose—and started by asking how community colleges will help retrain workers amid the downturn. 

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Last Friday, anyone driving past the Holiday Inn Express in Douglas, Wyoming, might have remarked on the large number of American-made pickup trucks in the parking lot. If they stuck around for a while, they would have seen that most of those pickup trucks belonged to stoney-faced men, who emerged from the hotel one-by-one, clutching blue folders.

“They put us all in one room and they told us all they were sorry, it was a layoff,” Kyle Christiansen recounted.

Stephanie Joyce

Wyoming needs to start planning for a lower-carbon future, according to panelists at a University of Wyoming discussion about the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule that would cut carbon emissions from power plants.

The panel of coal and utility industry representatives and academics was largely critical of the rule, calling it a clumsy vehicle for carbon reduction. But at the same time, the panelists all agreed that with or without the rule, carbon reduction will happen. 

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